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Metro to hire escalator consultants

(By Megan Rossman/The Washington Post)

Metro interim General Manager Richard Sarles told reporters during a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon that the agency plans to bring in consultants to help solve its ongoing problems with escalators and elevators.

Sarles said the move is a response to rider complaints, and the consultants would be on the scene within a month .

Metro board member Mortimer Downey told The Washington Post in a recent story that "escalators are clearly a problem."

"Escalators are an integral part of the passengers' ride and experience," Downey said, "and they need to be every bit as effective as the trains. They are not an amenity."

On any given day, dozens of Metro escalators are out of service. It's been an ongoing source of frustration for passengers. Tuesday afternoon about 68 escalators were listed as being out of service (out of a total 588) on Metro's Web site.

Do you have your own story to tell about escalator service? E-mail us at

By Michael Bolden  |  May 4, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Commuting , Metro  
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How much will this cost the ridership?

Posted by: jckdoors | May 4, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Consultants - sounds expensive. How much is this going to cost me in fares?

Posted by: reiflame1 | May 4, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I watched in metro center as a young male (about 20) sitting on the handrail and riding down the escalator. I am sure the escalators are not made for this type of abuse. Also children playing on the escalators are frequently a problem. These types of people are the ones who should be paying for the escalators' repairs.

Posted by: alterego3 | May 4, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Are you KIDDING me!?!?!?

We need consultants to tell Metro that the situation is screwed up?

Fire Sarles!

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | May 4, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Here's a free tip: If an escalator repeatedly breaks down because it is under-designed for the load it is carrying and/or is totally exposed to the elements, it is probably a waste of time and/or money to completely dismantle it into 10,000 pieces (in the station!) and then completely reassemble it to the same, original under-designed and/or totally exposed to the elements condition. If you ignore this advice, expect the escalator to breakdown again in short order.

This outcome was not be changed by replacing WMATA union labor with slightly cheaper contractor union labor. These people are very good but can do nothing about the conditions leading to chronic breakdowns.

Yes, Metro has more and longer escalators than anyplace in the Western Hemisphere. But the Moscow Subway has longer escalators with more riders and they don't break down. Call the Russian consultants!

Posted by: wp04272010 | May 4, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

To quote Office Space - "So what would you say... you do here?"

Helpful hints for the "consultants": (i) Rain, snow and sleet are murderous on escalator components; (ii) Thousands of parts all built by the lowest bidder tend to have problems with (i); (iii) Pressure sensor plates at the tops/bottoms would allow less wear and tear on (ii) when the escalators are not carrying passengers.

Analysis complete. Where's my $2M?

Posted by: nocando | May 4, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Here's a start...lets use standard escalators not the non-standard slow POS that metro has now. Let's also get rid of the manager overseeing the escalators and elevators. I believe he was the one that refused to comment on the situation a couple months ago and metro just said that they couldn't make him comment. HE'S YOUR EMPLOYEE! Of course you can make him comment. Then again we are talking about metro...what a waste of money...they will never implement anything.

Posted by: Razor04 | May 4, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

At Van Ness, 3 of 6 currently aren't working or are under repair.

Posted by: kenk3 | May 4, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I've been in the transportation business for years, A consultant will only help, if
they have no additional agenda, we know the problems, metro was sold a lie years ago, and they can't keep up, because the damage was done, when the lie was sold, these units aren't equiped to run under the conditions they run, and with that many units, running as long as they run, in the conditions they run in, things need to be broken down, try splitting up the units, into several divisions, place 1- head in each division, hold them accountable, and purchase 3- different type units, and see which one has more reliability, and add the extra measures to get a more reliable product, and the division that improves service, take their ideas, and place them in the other divisions, until they take smaller steps, the service will not improve, and in several years you'll have a plan for life.

Posted by: pmiller2 | May 4, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse


Are we to assume that you are the only person capable of running Metro?

Posted by: ceebee2 | May 4, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Metro has been operating and repairing the escalators for over 25 years. You mean they have to bring in consultants to tell them what the problem is? What about the mechanics who work on them day in and day out? Is there a paper trail on the repairs done and parts replaced?

The problem with Metro is that the people who are on the front line, the mechanices, are not trusted enough by Metro to give them recommendations. I use to work in the IT department at Metro. One of my duties was to run an IBM software package, purchased at $250K, to predict when the mainframe computer would run out of capacity. I told my manager that the mainframe computer would run out of capacity in three months. Nothing happened. Only when the computer actually ran out of capacity did Metro hire consultants, who running the same software package I had been running, told them the mainframe computer had run out iof capacity. The mindset at Metro is that they don't spend large sums of money without a consultant's recommendation.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | May 4, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

"Consultants - sounds expensive. ..."

Did anyone else read this and picture that guy in the rental car commercial saying "It's not expensive, Mom!"?

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 4, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to know what these consultants are supposed to do -- or what they are expected to do. With 588 escalators, one would think Metro already has employees who could serve the same function.

I continue to believe that the best and most cost-effective solution would be for Metro to replace its shorter escalators (such as the ones at Union Station) with stairs, and to focus repair $$ on its elevators and longer escalators.

Posted by: rbn1211 | May 4, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

The use of consultants is a ruse to spend money. This tends to deflect the controversy from those currently in charge to the recommendations of the consultants. As another poster has indicated why not ask the people who work on these things daily and find out what they are running into with these escalators? This is the problem with management in this country in general, they refuse to ask those who work on the front lines for their input. When they do they only do so to placate these employees and simply do what they want to do anyway. Management is collecting the higher salary but still resent those who do the actual hands on work because we all know management with their high education and arrogance know better than anyone else how to do their job. We have all seen this time and time again in government, business and private industry. Just look at all the “experts” we have in all these areas and what we now have for an economy. This is living proof of their arrogance since they never suffer for their decisions like their subordinates do when they loose their incomes to stupidity.

Posted by: OhBrother67 | May 4, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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